With the free trial offers for acai berry now under attack by the attorney generals of several states not to mention a huge lawsuit by Oprah and Dr. Oz, you might think that all those online promotions for acai berry supplements would now be on the up and up. One would think.
If you spend any time window shopping online what you quickly discover is that many of these companies are taking advantage of the bad publicity to position themselves as the acai berry providers that don't do deceptive trial offers.
The top ad uses a web address that is piggybacking on the very reputable website WebMD. However, the site, WebMDSpecialist, was just another acai berry sales site and evidently, a fly-by-night site. A few days after this ad appeared, a follow-up search on Google got an "Oops! This link appears to be broken." A follow-up on Whois.com found that website had just launched on October 1, 2009 and that information of the owner of the domain is protected. The registrant of that domain owns over 80 more domains.
The Mona Vie ad is linked to a site recruiting affiliate marketeers. The majority of companies selling acai berry use an affiliate marketing strategy that's where all those Amy, Carrie, Jeannie, Pam, Nicole and Kelly blogs come from.
The third ad is the most insidious because it presents itself as the anti-scam acai berry site. The ad links you to aProvenProduct.com which sells a private label acai berry product. It appears very reputable. It is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and it proudly displays an anti spam icon.
aProvenProduct.com is owned by JJ Smith Marketing and that company does have an "A" rating by the Better Business Bureau. But that's just half of the story.
JJ "Joe" Smith operates a JJ Smith Marketing, LLC which promotes itself as an engineered marketing company. He also says on his website that, "We're completely booked through 2009, however I can be convinced to bump really interesting projects to the top of the list."
In 2007, Julie's Journal, a paid review blog, promoted one of "Joe" Smith's affiliate marketing opportunities:WealthInfoGuy.com. Workathometruth.com has some major concerns about wealthlinfoguy. Like the acai berry ads, the WealthInfoGuy offers a seven day free trial before charging $97.00 one time activation fee and then a monthly fee of $39 and change.
So at aProvenProducts, Mr. Smith warns consumers against trial offers but at his other company, he uses trial offers. Who knows what he does at his other domains? According to domaintools.com he owns 315 of them.
A check at RipOff Report garnered one complaint against WealthInfoGuy. That complaint listed a second company, Tafiti Consulting. which is owned by National Resources Marketing which has over 250 domains. What is the connection? Not sure. But, interestingly, Tafiti Consulting is located in Kearny, Mo. Until recently, WealthInfoGuy was headquartered,so to speak, in Gladstone, Mo.- a distance of about 20 miles.
The problem of course is that average consumer isn't going to spend three hours searching out the connections and links to all these companies to find out whether or not they are legitimate.
Despite all the scams, consumers want to believe in a miracle product that will help them lose weight quickly. Having Britney Spears appear on Jay Leno and attribute her significant weight loss to acai berry will only fuel the desire of people to order what Britney is having.
If they go looking for acai berry online, they will have lots of companies that are eager to take their money. The question is, can you trust any of them?
Elana blogs about business culture at FunnyBusiness.com
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